US Goods Trade Deficit Narrows to Smallest Shortfall in Three Years

In another sign of the ongoing strength of the American economy, the U.S. merchandise-trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed for a third month in November to the smallest shortfall in three years as exports swelled and imports declined.

The gap decreased 5.4% to $63.2 billion from $66.8 billion, according to Commerce Department data released today. Forecasts had called for a widening to $68.7 billion.

Exports in November rose 0.7% to $136.4 billion, while imports decreased 1.3% to $199.6 billion, compared with October. Exports of auto products saw the biggest gain of 3.4%, followed by consumer goods at 2.6% and industrial supplies at 2%.

The positive economic news comes as the U.S. and China are said to be preparing to sign the first phase of their much-anticipated trade agreement — marking a significant turning point in their bitter trade war. The South China Morning Post reported today that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will travel to Washington, D.C., this week to sign the phase one deal with the U.S. The newspaper, citing a source briefed on the matter, said China has accepted the U.S. invitation for a deal-signing in Washington, and that the Chinese delegation will stay in the U.S. for “a few days.”

Over the past year and a half, the U.S. and China have imposed billions of dollars in tit-for-tat duties on one another. America currently has in place a 25% tariff on roughly $250 billion worth of Chinese products and a 15% levy on an additional $111 billion. The U.S. has also been embroiled in a tariff dispute with the EU since President Donald Trump over a year ago slapped 25% tariffs on imports of steel and 10% on those of aluminum — a move he asserted would provide protection for American industrial workers. Washington also imposed duties on $7.5 billion worth of European goods in October and Trump threatened to tax $2.4 billion worth of French products early this month in retaliation for France’s new digital services tax.

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